NEW YORK — "You realize no one can hear you," Donnie Wahlberg said.
That's because the hundreds of people gathered around Rockefeller Center Plaza were still screaming — screaming unintelligible noises, screaming marriage proposals, screaming that they love Donnie, Joey, Jordan, Jonathan and Danny, even after 14 years. The New Kids on the Block are back together, as they announced on the "Today" show early Friday morning (April 4) after months of rumors.
"Boy bands are always getting made fun of, but they made it OK and cool to be into them," explained one 30-year-old fan who showed up at 6 a.m. to stand in the rain for two-and-a-half hours to catch a glimpse of her grown-up teen idols, the youngest of whom is now 35. Blockheads, as the fans are called, flew in from as far as California and Texas, while others said they drove in from Pennsylvania and Chicago. Of course, there were even some fans that drove in from Boston, the band's hometown, since NKOTB were slated to perform together for the first time since they broke up in 1994.
NKOTB fans have been lighting up our Newsroom Blog all week. Yet this group wasn't that disappointed when, due to the wind and the rain, the performance was canceled. Instead, they treated it "as if it's a beautiful, sunny day," Joey McIntyre marveled. "I lost a glove and I'm freezing," one 20-year-old fan said, but she didn't mind, because when she got a chance to shake the bandmembers' hands, which meant she got skin-on-skin contact, "It was so worth it," she smiled.
"Jonathan, call me!" one 28-year-old fan cried out while holding a sign reading, "Marry Me. I'm legal now!"
So many of those gathered had missed seeing NKOTB at their peak, with some fans claiming they had been as young as 2 when the boy band won them over. But the wait won't be much longer: NKOTB assured the crowd that they would return to New York to perform on the "Today" show May 16 and would launch a tour in the fall to support a new album, mostly written by Wahlberg with some contributions from McIntyre and Jordan Knight. They've been recording since August with producers and writers Bryan-Michael Cox, Emmanuel Kiriakou, RedOne, Fernando Garibay, and Nazaree, and will release the album on Interscope Records.
On the tour, the bandmembers said that they plan to mix new material with the old favorites, which fans were already singing on the sidelines. "You got the right stuff, baby," one girl sang, as another next to her chanted, "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, hangin' tough."
"They're the original boy band," said 25-year-old fan Mike DiVito, who said he didn't care that he was one of the few males showing their appreciation. "They're bigger than 'NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and they rule. They're the original. They broke the mold."
What about New Edition or the Jackson Five? "They're the original in our hearts," his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kristen DeGrietto, quickly retracted. And it was a matter of hearts over minds, since for so many, nostalgia for their long-past childhoods, determined much of their NKOTB excitement now.
"This reunion was necessary because this was our youth," said Robin O'Brien, a 30-year-old fan.
"I had the dolls, the buttons, the lunchbox, the sheets, you name it, I had it," one 18-year-old fan said. "I've been waiting since I was 4 — for 14 years — for this! I was too young to see them when they were big, so my mom had to tape all their appearances for me to watch the next day, because I had to go to bed and go to day care."
"I was 9 when they were big," laughed one 28-year-old fan. "You have no idea what this means to us, that they're all getting back together. We get to feel young again and have that good-time feeling — and of course, the hotness helps. My whole wall was plastered with their posters, and when my mom tore them down, I was so upset. I couldn't go to the concerts then, but my mom can't stop me now. I'm free!"